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The Edge of Silence

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Album Review

From the beginning, Solas has been a group that likes to mix it up, blending traditional Celtic melodies with an updated instrumental approach, but their fourth album, 2000's The Hour Before Dawn, found them moving away from the passionate jigs and reels of their earlier work into a more introspective style. The group's fifth disc, The Edge of Silence, finds them venturing even farther down this path; the sessions were produced by Solas leader Seamus Egan in collaboration with Neil Dorfsman, who has previously worked with Dire Straits and Sting, and it's certainly the group's most polished and stylistically diverse work to date. Many of the selections sound as if they're more strongly influenced by new age atmospherics and moody pop styles than anything in the lexicon of traditional Celtic music, and even the most trad-style numbers (such as "Charmy Chaplin" and "Legless") sound significantly more streamlined than this group did on their earlier work; the languid drift of "Black Annis," the subtly anthemic melodicism of their take on Bob Dylan's "Dignity," and electronic percussion textures of "Darkness, Darkness" make it clear Solas are governed less by Irish music's past than their own creative vision of the future. Which is to say that some of the purists who embraced the group's earlier work may be a bit put off by the glossy surfaces and pop-friendly melodies on The Edge of Silence, and once in a while one does miss the bracing fire of something like "The Yellow Tinker/Cranking Out/Master Crowley's #2" from their debut. But the material is strong; this band plays with grace and real passion (fiddler Winifred Horan, guitarist Donal Clancy, and accordionist Mick McAuley are all in superb form), and Deirdre Scanlan's vocals are a thing of beauty. If Solas are moving closer to pop music on The Edge of Silence, they're clearly doing so on their own terms, and with their talents and sense of creative daring very much intact.

Biography

Genre: World

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Blending a sincere love and respect for the traditions of Irish music with a sense of melodic and instrumental adventure that suggests a clear focus on the future, Solas have established themselves as one of the finest Celtic folk groups working in the United States, with more than one writer describing them as perhaps the finest Irish traditional band extant. Solas is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Seamus Egan. Born in Pennsylvania in 1969, Egan moved to Ireland with his family when he...
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The Edge of Silence, Solas
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